That the opening guitar line of ''Walking on Snow'' the first track on Jordin Sparks' sophomore set sounds like a close cousin of the riff that kicks off Kelly Clarkson's ''Since U Been Gone'' should come as no surprise. One couldn't blame Sparks, American Idol's sixth-season champ, for attempting to mirror the career trajectory of the original-flavor Idol: a decently received debut followed up by a pop masterpiece with multiplatinum sales.
Battlefield certainly delivers on the artistic end: It's packed with more hooks than a fisherman's tackle box, none better than on the gorgeous title track, which sports a soaring chorus. When Sparks hits that ''Better go and get your armor'' bridge, you can practically feel the wind whipping through your hair.
Second single ''S.O.S. (Let the Music Play),'' with its refrain copped from Shannon's 1983 dance classic, may not be thrillingly original, but resistance is futile when Sparks, showing heretofore unseen vocal dexterity, takes to the dance floor to ward off a vixen who's barking up the wrong boyfriend.
Battlefield actually contains enough potential hits to keep the singer in heavy rotation until well into Idol's 10th season: The music-box piano on ''No Parade'' breaks your heart even before she gets to the bruising chorus, while ''Watch You Go'' recasts her as a fickle R&B temptress. Sparks even co-penned four tracks, including ''Faith,'' the best AI anthem the show has never had. Kara DioGuardi, you've been warned. A–
Download This: Listen to the song No Parade on the artist’s MySpace